“There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum.”
Carl G Jung
If you had to put yourself in the box of either being ‘fun and outgoing’ or ‘shy and thoughtful’; which would you choose?
Some people can answer this straight away. Some are less sure.
Maybe you just wouldn’t choose at all. After all, why can’t I be shy and fun? Why can’t I be outgoing and thoughtful?
The truth is everybody has a different experience of the world because of the type of person they are and how we are all programmed to approach the world. In order to try and understand these differences, we usually come back to two very broad personality types termed the ‘introvert’ and ‘extrovert’.
Behavioural Scientist, Francesca Gino defines these categories as the following:
- Introverts typically dislike noise, interruptions, and big group settings. They instead tend to prefer quiet solitude, time to think before speaking (or acting), and building relationships and trust one-on-one. Introverts recharge with reflection, deep dives into their inner landscape to research ideas, and focus deeply on work.
- Extroverts gravitate toward groups and constant action, and they tend to think out loud. They are energized and recharged by external stimuli, such as personal interactions, social gatherings, and shared ideas. Being around other people gives them energy.
Consequently, introverts are seen as ‘shy’ and extroverts as ‘outgoing’. The downside of this basic categorization is that people are a lot more complicated than this. One of the best things about humanity is that we have different facets to us. Without wanting to sound too much like Shrek, we’re like onions – we have multiple layers to our personalities and selves.
Another issue is the negative stigma associated with introversion and bias towards extroversion. Considering the initial question of “fun and outgoing” vs “shy and thoughtful”; why is it automatically assumed that extroverts are fun and introverts are thoughtful? Being shy doesn’t necessarily mean you’re an introvert and just because you’re perceived as outgoing, that shouldn’t immediately place you in the extrovert box. As a society we gravitate towards more outgoing and open people, but why do we feel the need to define them as extroverts? By labelling society as one of these two options, we’re subliminally limiting introverts and placing higher expectations on extroverts.
However, there are a lot of ‘outgoing’ people who are introverts. Rosa Parks, who became famous for standing up for equality (or sitting down realistically) was a so-called “introvert”. JK Rowling comments on her shy behaviour regularly but is open and friendly in public. The point is not on how you act within a particular social setting but it’s about how the brain functions. Introverted people can enjoy people’s company as much as extroverts and be just as much fun at a party, but they usually require time to themselves to recharge afterwards. Extroverts, on the other hand, may have the opposite experience. They find that having time alone is draining and require time with others to gain energy. Being an introvert or extrovert is not technically about your personality, but instead whether you draw energy from other people or yourself.
What if you fit into both categories? Well, that’s where we pull out the wild card – ambiversion. No, we didn’t make up that word, it’s a real thing we promise. It’s the combination of both introversion and extroversion. I personally think that we may all be introverted in some ways and extroverted in others. We all have days when we are fulfilled by the company of others; but can find time alone a rewarding experience too.
But what can we learn from the different personality types?
Being able to understand who we surround ourselves with can help us to figure out the best ways to connect with people. Just like understanding where people’s boundaries lie will help us to avoid crossing them. All types of personality tests are all about building up our knowledge of others so that we can be a more tolerant, compassionate and considerate society.
So, what do you think? Would you consider yourself an introvert or extrovert, or even an ambivert? Let us know your thoughts and let’s see if there’s a dominant personality trait within our social work and care community!